The Initiative has also developed a list of characteristics of a Catholic Common Ground Initiative dialogue. The test of time has proved the value of this seemingly simple checklist.
The basis of any Initiative dialogue is the charter statement, Called to Be Catholic, Church in a Time of Peril.
1. All dialogue sponsored by the Initiative is intra-church.
The Initiative has much to learn from those who have worked at ecumenical and interfaith dialogue over the years, and also from those who are using dialogue for conflict resolution or as a management tool. Nonetheless, the Initiative’s focus is fostering dialogue on issues about which Catholics are polarized.
The Initiative distinguishes dialogue from debate, discussion, or advocacy. In the dialogue, we
- stand accountable to the teaching of the church
- respect diverse viewpoints within the church
- seek to strengthen unity as well as to identify more precisely points of disagreement.
2. Because we stand within the community of the Catholic Church,Initiative dialogues begin in and are sustained by prayer together.
Participants in each of our conferences testify to the power of our common worship-Eucharist and Morning or Evening Prayer. Our common commitment to Jesus Christ and the empowerment of the Spirit urge us to an openness to one another, to a recognition that we bear responsibility for the good of the whole community, and to an awareness that we each have contributions to make.
3. Initiative dialogues include persons of diverse viewpoints at the same time and place.
One symptom of the polarization within the church at the present time is the tendency to separate into like-minded groups who belong to like-minded associations, who read (and write for) like-minded publications. In fact, it is an ongoing challenge to gather people at the “poles” of an issue and to engage directly their different viewpoints. When we have succeeded in doing so, most often minds aren’t changed, but relationships are forged and understanding grows about why a different view is held passionately.
4. A dialogue is a structured conversation, with clear guidelines. All participants in Initiative dialogues agree to abide by the principles of dialogue in Called to Be Catholic.
Sometimes people are so committed to advocacy for a point of view that they are unwilling to enter into a dialogue which requires respectful, empathic listening and a realization that they may, in fact, be changed by what they hear.
5. The goal of any Initiative activity is pastoral:
The goal of any dialogue event is “to learn how to make our differences fruitful” so that they may enhance the life of the church as a community of faith, worship and witness.